Do Other’s Emotions Affect Food Choice?

April 27, 2012

Have you ever wondered if seeing someone enjoy a certain food would affect your preference for that same food? It may have more of an influence than you think

Have you ever wondered if seeing someone enjoy a certain food would affect your preference for that same food, or if a person’s weight status would affect your food choice? A study published in the journal Obesity demonstrates that both weight and emotion influence our eating habits; moreover adults may influence children’s eating habits through their facial expressions.

Previous research combined with the results of this study demonstrate that an adult’s desire to eat foods decreases in the presence of an overweight eater, compared to a normal-weight eater. The findings are slightly different in children.

When the children liked the foods presented, the eater’s weight status had no effect on their eating desire. Kids were more influenced by the eater’s facial expressions; an expression of pleasure increased the desire to eat the liked foods in the younger children, whereas an expression of disgust decreased it. The findings come at a time when about one-third of children are overweight or obese - increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and other health problems.

This study reminds us how impressionable children are, and the importance of teaching them good habits through our actions; being great role models. Adults, parents, and guardians should be mindful of the way they react towards certain foods, both those that are nutrient rich and nutrient poor.

When food shopping with kids, spend extra time in the produce section choosing carefully and sharing the wonderful scents of the fruit and vegetables with your kids - as compared with time spent in front of the processed meat case or freezers full of ice cream and other sweets. The same goes for eating occasions – kids look up to their parents and adults and thus we need to be mindful in choosing foods as well as our negative reactions to healthy foods. So the bottom line is that when you are eating healthy foods be sure to smile!